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Battle of Hart's River

The Battle of Hart's River in March 1902 was one of the bloodiest days of the South African War for Canadian troops.

3 March 1902


South African War

Introduction

The 2nd Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles, was part of the third contingent of troops that Canada sent to South Africa. So many Canadians volunteered that six squadrons, and not four as planned, left Canada. These soldiers participated in several battles in South Africa. They captured large numbers of Boer troops. During one battle they drove 2,500 Boers into a desert like area of the western Transvaal.

Tracking through the Brakspruit

The Canadians were part of a British column that tracked the Boers through that region. On 31 March 1902, they were searching the Brakspruit, a nearly dry river which ran off Harts River. Their scouts found a trail of what appeared to be a small number of Boer soldiers.

Holding at Boschbult

The British troops believed this would be an easy victory and went ahead in eager pursuit. The Canadians followed behind, ordered to escort the slower baggage train.

The British discovered the Boers outnumbered them. They immediately set up defenses around a nearby farm called Boschbult. The Canadians arrived and found Boers attacking and driving back the defenses.

The Canadian stand

The determined Boers attacked the British camp for hours. Between the heavy shell and rifle fire, they would send in regular cavalry charges.

During one such charge, a large group of Boer troops separated 21 Canadian soldiers from the main British force. The Canadians chose not to surrender or retreat. Instead they fought until their ammunition ran out and their position was overrun. The Canadians suffered great loss: 18 of the 21 soldiers were killed or wounded.

At around 5 p.m. that afternoon, the Boers suddenly stopped their attacks and withdrew.

Aftermath

By the end of the battle, 13 Canadian soldiers had been killed and a further 40 were wounded. For Canada, the Battle of Hart's River was the bloodiest day of the war since Paardeberg. Unfortunately, unlike Paardeberg, Hart's River was a British defeat.


Classroom materials

Classroom materials main page

Lesson plan: Ages 12 to 18

40 Canadians

Lesson plan: Ages 12 to 18

Canadian Faces of the South African War

Lesson plan: Ages 12 to 18

Canada and the South African War WebQuest

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